Nine Fun Facts About Carrots
Nine Fun Facts About Carrots
1. The scientific name for the domesticated carrot is Daucus carota subspecies sativus. It is part of the Apiaceae family, which also includes celery and parsnips, as well as herbs like anise, parsley, cumin and coriander, and the dangerous plant hemlock.
2. Historians believe that the domestic carrot originated somewhere in Central Asia, and the wild ancestors of the carrot originated in Persia.
3. While most people think of carrots as being orange in color, there are many varieties of other colors, including purple, black, red, white and yellow. In fact, the earliest mentions of carrots refer to purple or white carrots, not orange. Orange carrots first appeared in the 1600s in the Netherlands—historians speculate the reason was related to the current Dutch flag, which included orange.
4. If carrots are allowed to flower, they can attract predatory wasps that kill many other garden pests. As such, they are a great companion plant.
5. The leafy greens of the carrot are edible, but most people don’t eat them. When they are eaten that way, it’s usually in a salad or stir-fry.
6. Contrary to popular belief, eating carrots will not actually help you see better in the dark. This myth was propagated during World War II by the British Royal Air Force. They spread the rumor to explain why their pilots suddenly had more success during night raids—they were really trying to disguise their advances in radar technology! The general public really believed that carrots would help them see better at night, and by 1942, extra production led to a 100,000 ton surplus of carrots!
7. The well-known flowering weed Queen Anne’s Lace is actually the flower of the wild carrot! Queen Anne’s Lace is thought to be named after Anne, Queen of Great Britain, because the flower resembles the lace and the central red flower represents a blood droplet where she pricked herself with a needle while making the lace. Queen Anne’s Lace looks very similar to the poisonous hemlock, so care should be taken when picking it.
8. There are three other homonyms for carrots. Carat is a unit of weight for precious stones, and is equal to 0.2 grams. Caret is the little upside-down V mark used to indicate insertion in proof-reading (^). Karat is used to measure the purity of gold alloys, and is equal to 1/24th of the whole.
9. Eating an excessive amount of carrots over time really can turn your skin a yellow-ish color, a condition known as carotenemia. It is caused by high levels of carotenoids, which occur in many popular vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and brussel sprouts, fruits such as figs, kiwi, mangos and pineapples, and other foods such as cheese, mustard and eggs. As such, it commonly occurs in vegetarians. The condition itself is harmless and doesn’t have to be treated, and usually reverses itself when the use of carotene is discontinued.
Queen Anne's Lace photo credit.